1. Spiced rum has a bad reputation. It’s fun. It can be too sweet. You knew someone in college who tossed back too many Captain-and-Cokes. But that doesn’t stop many from taking spiced rum very seriously. Maybe too seriously.
2. Dry vs. sweet spiced rums. I didn’t realize there were different styles until I started tasting. But it’s a rather pronounced difference, and the “dry style” spiced rums were particularly nuanced and delicious.
3. Spiced rum is made with actual spices. Not just flavorings. Vanilla is perhaps the most commonly found spice. However, cocktail geeks mostly disapprove of “vanilla-forward” rums. Taste thoughtfully, and you may detect spices like clove, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Ginger and black pepper also may appear. One particularly spicy Cajun brand also used cayenne pepper.
4. Spiced rum is not part of the classic cocktail canon. Old school tiki bars would make their own. Some newfangled tiki lounges still do. (I’m lookin’ at you, Martin Cate!)
5. How to use spiced rum in cocktails. Tiki driks. Hot drinks like spiced cider. The Cable Car is a new classic. In other words, spiced rum is more versatile than I had thought. Check out some drink recipes here.
If you have a favorite spiced rum or cocktail made with spiced rum, I’d love to hear about it!
I’ve had spiced rum on the brain ever since I wrote about the new crop of rums for “Talk Like A Pirate Day.” And I’ve been planning to experiment and mix up a few batches but just haven’t found the time.
Turns out, Paul Clarke beat me to the punch, with his Serious Eats post on How To Make Spiced Rum From Scratch. In the article, he notes the importance of selecting the right rum to infuse — he recommends “something with a good, aged richness to it,” (I agree) and recommends Appleton Estate Extra, Mount Gay Eclipse, or Matusalem Gran Reserva.
He also warns that vanilla can overpower some spiced rums — which seems to be the chief complaint about the current crop of spiced rums. Personally, I find those vanilla notes pleasing, but certainly it’s more interesting when the rum shows pops of cinnamon, allspice, or clove.
Paul Clarke’s Spiced Rum
1 750ml bottle decent aged rum
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
3 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick, broken into pieces
5 whole allspice berries
5 whole black peppercorns
1/2 piece star anise
1/8 tsp fresh-grated nutmeg
3 quarter-size pieces fresh ginger
2 3-inch strips fresh orange zest, white pith removed
Combine everything in a large jar and seal. Keep in a cool, dark place for a couple of days, shaking it once a day to distribute the ingredients. Start tasting it after 48 hours; adjust ingredients if necessary, and once you feel it’s done (probably no longer than 4 days altogether), strain and bottle.
In the past, I’ve also tried the following spiced rum recipe — it’s unorthodoxly fruity, intense, and loosely based on a house-made version that was served at the Waldorf-Astoria’s Peacock Alley bar a few years back, where the rum was shaken with Cointreau and raspberry puree.
Autumn Spiced Rum
1 750 ml bottle gold rum
1/2 Fuji apple, diced
5 pieces of fresh ginger, peeled and cut into coin-sized slices
1 dried fig
1 piece of orange peel
1 Tablespoon of black peppercorns, crushed
Add all the spices to the rum, close, and let steep 24 hours, or as long as one week. Strain out the fruit and spices and cover tightly. Use in your favorite rum-based cocktails.